Rachel Melville-Thomas is a Child and Adolescent Psychotherapist from the Association of Child Psychotherapists and she shares some top tips on helping your child with anxieties around COVID-19.
We are all having to adjust our lives to deal with and prevent the spread of COVID – 19. It is natural for our children and young people to be particularly confused or anxious because as well as massive changes to their routine, they are witnessing normally confident and positive adults also becoming troubled. So how do we help them?
- Allow feelings even if they sound “silly”. Agree that the coronavirus thing is messing a lot of things up, and that it’s a bit scary and can even make you feel angry. Allow teenagers and those with special school examinations or projects to have space to get mad or sad about it.
- Ask “how do you feel about what’s going on?” and listen carefully, acknowledge, before rushing to reassure.
- Let children “find their feelings” through talking, drawing etc. Can they draw a picture of how they see things?
You can support this, by making this a family thing – a competition to draw, the virus, how you feel about the virus and then compare results and discuss.
- Ask what do they know so far? Again, this is time to really listen. Don’t overload them with information, start where they are – even young children can surprise you with what they know and the inaccuracies they have picked up from the playground/overheard conversations and social media.
- Remind them that most people, especially children are recovering.
- Reassure that, although the adults are still learning, there are lots of doctors and experts helping them know WHAT TO DO.
Remind them, what the advice is:
- Stay calm
- Wash your hands every time you come in or out, and between lessons, meals and bathroom visits.
- Look after other people – this is why we have been asked to isolate so we don’t spread the disease to other people particularly vulnerable people like grandparents.
- Give “space” as a present to all other people you meet when out for exercise, don’t squash in on them, keep a distance of two metres – as if you were playing a game of catch and throw of a ball.
Focus on the HERE and NOW - What are you doing TODAY – focus on what you can do today, what will you do in the next few minutes, or even the next hour.
Look after your pets – keep them safe and happy. Go out on a daily walk or bike ride, as a family if you can.
Not everyone can go out, so if you have to all stay at home
- Make a list of activities you can do – post it on the fridge or make a colourful poster for the wall.
- Get old toys out and remind yourself of what you used to do. E.g. Lego, cars, dolls, books, plasticine.
- Try to keep a daily routine going, so limit the pyjama wearing, maintain breakfast lunch and dinner at the normal times.
- Adults – DON’T keep the TV or laptop news on permanently in the background.
- Keep active by having a massive “Dance around” in your house every day.
- Find ways to keep connected to grandparents and older family members. Use online video chat or write old fashioned letters and if you can’t get out to post them ask a friend or neighbour to help (with care and distance of course).
If you’d like support for you and your child at this time, you can find out how speaking to a child psychotherapist can help. For more information please visit the ACP webiste and see the ACP Find a Child Psychotherapist page.
The Association of Child Psychotherapists (ACP) is the professional body for Psychoanalytic Child and Adolescent Psychotherapists in the UK. Child and adolescent psychotherapy is a core NHS profession with members completing a four year full-time training in NHS child and adolescent mental health services. This enables them to develop high level competencies and to provide specialist psychotherapy across a range of settings to some of the most vulnerable children and young people in society. Psychoanalytic Child and Adolescent Psychotherapists have a key role in supporting other professionals who work with infants, children and young people, and their families, across the health, care, education and justice sectors. The ACP is responsible for regulating the training and practice standards of child and adolescent psychotherapy and is an accredited register of the Professional Standards Authority (PSA).
What is Child Psychotherapy?
Child Psychotherapy helps 0-25 year olds to understand themselves better and work through their emotional difficulties. Feelings of sadness, worry or anger can be difficult to say out loud, and thoughts can sometimes feel confusing or even frightening. Child and adolescent psychotherapists are trained to help children and young people to unlock what lies underneath their difficulties, which is sometimes called ‘unconscious’. We tailor our approach to the individual child, and work in an age-appropriate way, assessing and supporting the whole child, their family or care unit, through a combination of talking, playing and drawing. Child Psychotherapy has a positive impact on relationships and behaviour in the home and school, and helps enable the child to concentrate, manage themselves and work through emotions at their own pace.
Child Psychotherapy and how it can help
Beginning to understand a child’s distress plays a vital part in supporting and containing difficulties. We listen carefully to what the child communicates, by what they say and how they show their feelings. This might be through talking with young people or play with small children. Working together, at the pace of the child, we help collect their feelings that can be overwhelming, even out of control. Relationships at home and at school can then start to feel better, whilst becoming more removed from harmful relationships.
Why it can help
Children feel relief when they are understood by someone and can be helped to understand their own minds better. They do this by starting to talk about their feelings and understanding of what is inside. Some of the ways children behave are not so easy to understand but child and adolescent psychotherapists decipher even the most confusing things and put meaning to behaviour. Children can be particularly vulnerable when they are in the midst of their development and have experiences which are too much for them to manage. Having a trained professional to talk to can help prevent feelings and relationships worsening and help plan the right kind of support for future progress.